The World of YS, Take Three: God is funny like that

    How crazy is this, I am back at Youth Specialties. Starting January 1st I came back full time to lead YS. God must have some kind of sense of humor and once again I am made aware that I can never really predict what God is going to do next in my life. Who saw this coming…… I know I didn’t. I thought my time with YS had ended but obviously God had other ideas. This may take a while but let me unfold this Journey. As some of you know and as I have blogged, at the end of this past July I left YS after 32 years. If you are interested you can read about my thoughts and feelings on this on my previous posts. I spent most of August backpacking and starting the process of shaking free of  YS and trying to see what my post YS life might look like.I had given myself a three month Sabbatical to rest and recharge before starting to look for work again. I needed some time to try and discern what God might be writing in the next chapter of my life. My Sabbatical was scheduled to end October 31.

    I was at a friends condo with my wife in the Colorado Mountains in early October when Marko called and told me that YS was going to be sold. He then asked if I would be interested in coming back to run the conventions again (so much for my plans of 3 months away before I really started thinking about work again). This of course was all very hush, hush. As you might guess this started me spinning a bit. YS being sold and me returning to YS were not any part of my thinking. It was a total left turn. Things got even stranger after that, Marko was let go by Zondervan and all kinds of drama abounded. All my friends at YS who in January 09 were put through an emotional ringer when 12 of us were let go from YS once again found themselves in a very difficult place wondering what was going on. Was the sale really going to happen? When was the sale going to happen? What would it all mean? My heart really hurt for them. So that kind of ended the conversations of my returning to YS other than the occasional rumor that the perspective new owners wanted to talk to me. Meanwhile I was having some pretty exciting conversations with people about what to do next. These conversations were moving along and I was pretty pumped but I could not totally shake “the whole YS thing” . Too many friends were involved in the YS situation so there were always conversations about what was and what might be going on at YS.

    Sometime before the Atlanta NYWC I had lunch with Paul Bertelson the President of YouthWorks who was the one trying to buy YS. We spent a great couple hours together. I felt really good about the possible new home for YS. I got an understanding of why they wanted to buy YS, got a feel for his heart. We talked a bunch about YS including some possibilities of involvement on my part if the sale went through. That was pretty much the last I heard from Paul or anyone at YouthWorks as they were consumed with trying to do this deal. At the Atlanta NYWC the intended sale of YS went public (actually by that time it was one of the worse kept secrets in the youth ministry world). I never heard back again from Paul so I was thinking they wanted to move in another direction. My conversations with the others I was talking with heated up and I was pretty sure I would know before the first of the year what I would do next.  The week of December 14 Paul called and said they were coming out to the YS offices and wanted to meet for breakfast Thursday morning. Paul, John Potts (the YouthWorks COO) and I met for breakfast. The sale of YS finally closed the day before. We talked for a couple hours and our time ended with them inviting me to come back and lead YS. Holy Guacamole, Whodathunk this!

    I had a lot to think about. The other things I was looking at were very exciting and a couple opportunities had firmed up. They were with people I really liked and one with people I loved. They were all involved in youth ministry which is my passion so I was getting excited. What the heck was God up to? December 21 I spent the day in Minneapolis at YouthWorks headquarters. I know Minneapolis in December, right.  December 27 after much prayer, reflection and sorting I said yes to return to YS. There are many reasons why I am returning, here are a couple of them:

    I kind of fell for YouthWorks. I have been touched deeply by their humility, grace, sense of following God in this whole process, their calling to youth ministry and the grounding of their faith in justice, simplicity, generosity and caring for others. When I met with Paul I ask him why the heck would a youth missions organization want to buy YS? What I learned is that YouthWorks was not a youth missions organization but that youth missions is just one expression of who the are even though it is the most well known and largest expression. Let me tell a bit of their and Pauls story. Paul was a youth pastor at a large and well resourced church in Minneapolis. He thought all churches were like that as he had only been involved in a couple. As he got to know other youth workers in his area he realized that was not the case and in fact many folks we tying to do youth ministry with little or no training or resources. So he decided to just share his resources and started opening his youth ministry up to others. They would do concerts, retreats, camps, leader training even mission trips together. Eventually his church said um…ah…. Paul this is all very cool but it is not the mission of our church (I’m just guessing here but I think liability issues may have played a role in this). They encouraged and help him (very cool) to start a non profit organization to help train, encourage and resource youth workers. So YouthWorks was started.

    It just so happened that helping youth groups do mission trips was the part that took off, so away they went. Years later YouthWorks board and leadership team felt they we not fullfilling their calling just focusing on doing mission trips, as important and successful as they were. They were formed to help youth workers and it was time to continue to take more steps in that direction. In 2002 they talked to Mike and Karla Yaconelli about purchasing YS. Paul and others LOVE YS and had been greatly impacted by the ministry of YS over the years. They had attended the YS conventions almost every year. They  had heard through the grapevine that Yac might want to sell it. Mike had be playing with the idea of selling YS a few different times and was VERY close to doing it twice. I remember when the YouthWorks folks came out. They had great conversations with the Yaconelli’s but for whatever reason the timing was just not right. They parted friends and kept in relationship. Their interest in YS never really died. This last fall found them in conversations with Z about bringing YS into the YouthWorks family.

    YS is now part of an expanding family of ministries that will work side by side. Each will focus on their specific calling to help the church be the church.

    I love that they are a non profit and that they measure their success on Kingdom impact. They know how to do the business side really well but that serves the ministry side not the other way around. I really like that turning a buck is not the main thing here. They are all about stewardship of what God has given them. Here is a really cool thing. They give away a million dollars a year to projects and ministries in the communities where they do the mission trips. That really blew me away. So here is the funny thing, as a non profit they are very profitable but they give that profit away in Kingdom work.

    When I came to their offices I cracked up because they are ….um….ah…..kind of dumpy. They are in an old Coke bottling plant. Their thinking is simple. They had the money to build a big fancy office but doing that would mean they would have less money to give away. They remember that the money that comes their way came from youth groups around the country who did fund raisers to pay for their missions trips. They remember that they are serving the poor all over the country. A big fancy building flies in the face of that….Nice.

    They love youth workers. They see them all summer long. They have a heart for the small churches as well as the big churches. They hang out all summer with the adult volunteer who brought 5 kids from a small church with no paid youth pastor. They want to serve that person as well as the full time paid youth pastor from thriving youth ministries….they get it……they get youth workers…I like that.

    OK so that is some of why I fell for YouthWorks as a great home for YS and a great place for me to serve. Oh yeah one more thing. They are keeping the El Cajon office. Minnesota in the winter, Dude.

    I still get to serve youth workers. It became clear to me in my time away that youth ministry is where I wanted to stay. Youth ministry is where God has called me. I tried to think about other things to do and places to serve but nothing excited me as much as youth ministry. I guess I am just a lifer. We are a quirky bunch, we may be a sick and twisted group but it’s home.

    I get to work with the YS Staff and family again. This was really big to me. I love the YS staff, they are awesome. With some of them it is a chance to continue doing together what we love doing together. For others it’s a chance to do something new. Like in the case of Mark Matlock. We were so excited to get to work together and had all kinds of dreams but never really did get a chance, now we can…way fun

    Lastly I am just a YS guy. It’s in my DNA. I blogged it was going to be painful to no longer be able to say “Hi I’m Tic from YS” . I can’t believe I get to say that again. I Love YS. I love that we are all about youth workers and youth ministry. I love the way YS has served them over the years. I love our love our playful irreverence, our commitment to the church. I love that we care for the Youth Workers soul and want to help them walk deeply with Jesus. I love that we feel there is no ministry more important or more rewarding than working with students.In the end I just could not say no to YS

    Now I am back. I never even considered this as an option but that is where God comes in. God seems to like to do goofy stuff, likes to do the unexpected. God is funny like that



Filed under Uncategorized

88 responses to “The World of YS, Take Three: God is funny like that

  1. Patti Christensen

    Good point, Todd – does this mean we’re having another party??? We’re in!!

    • Congrats. Tic! I wish you all the best. John Potts was my field supervisor back in Seminary days… good man and glad you will have opportunity to brush shoulders with him and the rest of the gang at Youth Works.


  2. Kami Gilmour

    Hey Tic…what a ride!

    It feels like the missing piece of a puzzle is finally in place, and I think God’s just getting started!Exciting, healthy things are shaping up in the world of youth ministry and we’re all blessed by your leadership.

    Our crew at Group & Simply Youth Ministry are giving you and the YS team a standing ovation. Thanks for being a shining example of what it means to be faithful, humble and patient (and never lose your sense of humor!)

    No matter where our roots are planted, it’s great share a kindred passion with you and be on one big ole’ team for the Kingdom.

    Tear it up, my friend!


  3. What fantastic news! so excited and I can’t wait to see you and your NFL jersey!

  4. Big smile on my face. So happy for you. It is crazy the stories God chooses to write in our lives.

  5. John Lovelace

    Congrats Tic, so glad you are back!!! I look forward ro what God is going to do!!!

  6. “I kind of fell for YouthWorks. I have been touched deeply by their humility, grace, sense of following God in this whole process, their calling to youth ministry and the grounding of their faith in justice, simplicity, generosity and caring for others.”

    Me too. It’s kinda impossible not to love the heart and soul of the people and the philosophy behind what they do. And you’re back!

    x x much love from the other side of the world. can’t wait to see what the future looks like.

  7. Praise God. Congrats bro.

    Time to get you back up to Canada. We’re hosting the Olympis you know? haha.

  8. Stan Bilinski

    Talk about receiving a gift in the Octave Feast of the Lord’s Epiphany! Glad to hear you are back, Tic! 2010 is good already!

  9. John

    Canada welcomes you back my friend!
    John Wilkinson

  10. Chris Boccalupo


  11. Brian Berry

    yeah tic. stoked for you. stoked for the future. stoked to keep crossing paths in the world of YS. welcome home. again.

  12. Marti Burger

    Wow- I love how God works. I am thankful for your heart, your passion and love for God’s people. What a gift to all of us to have you back- with fresh ideas, new insights and God’s leading and direction! Blessings my friend!

  13. Jim Burns

    Tic, I am so very happy for you and excited for the future. This is a God thing! If there is absolutely anything I can do to serve you, do not hesitate to call on me. Since I heard about your return I have just had a smile on my face. Actually this Tic Long journey just cracks me up. He has plans for you! Love, Jim

  14. bob

    tic, long time no see! now see a lot in 6mo. i have been praying for you and family as our paths are so similar. God is good, awsome! welcome to the REAL world, welcome home, again. love you much-bf

  15. This is by far the best news I have heard about in a long, long time. This was an incredibly good move on Paul’s part, and I believe this will be good not only for YS but for the myriad youth workers who will be continue to be served by it. And I hope your return will be filled with joyous excitement, wonder, awe, and just a little mischief.

    • Tim Rios

      @ Will Penner: just a “little” mischief…? =)

      Tic, amazing news! I’m so glad to hear you’re back. I have wonderful memories of the years I got to briefly hang with you guys when I was with Highway Video.

      Time to buy some new shades cuz the future looks pretty bright… =)

  16. Robert Oglesby


    I am so excited to have you back doing YS. You will bring a great spirit to the conventions. I have thought about you often and I hope the transitions are smooth as you build toward the future.

  17. Do you (the rest of us reading Tics blog) remember where you were when you heard Tic is back at YS!? I do. 12 minutes ago here on my laptop sitting right here in the Ocean City, MD convention center with “Waiting to Breathe” doing a sound check and 4,400 United Methodist High School kids and their youth leaders getting ready to invade this space in a few hours.
    Tic, what an insanely God-only-could-pull-that-one-off story/journey. Thanks for sharing it. And for crying out loud would some go out a buy a gigantic “Welcome Back” mat at Walmart or wherever they sell such mats. Great news.
    Man, I hope you and the rest of the Long Fam. are doing good Tic. Catch ya.

  18. Wow! God is good! All the time!

  19. Othy

    Awesome news! I am excited for you Tic, and for YS!

  20. Doug Tegner

    Tic, this is so great news. Another great story in the continuing Grand Narrative.

    My only regret…you havent come back to visit your hometown and enjoy time in Cull Canyon, unno…your special hangout during those tumultous high school years.

  21. Congrats…It was always great to see you

  22. Congrats, Tic. How amazing, and what a great reward for your faithfulness and trust in God to lead you to and through the next stage. It sort of reminds me of Abraham and Isaac. In the end, you didn’t have to cut YS’s head off. What a relief.

    I hope to come visit you guys sometime soon. I’m anxious to see the new YS digs.

    Grace and Peace.

  23. Michelle


    I am so incredibly happy for you (and for all of us who love you)!

    YouthWorks! is a great organization, and I’m so excited for the future of YS.

    Blessings! Michelle

  24. God has plans… even for the Tic’s of the world. =) Congrats on your new role. I have greater anticipation for whats ahead at YS with you on board.

    –Terrace Crawford

  25. jerry falling

    Thank God for His great insight. Thank you Tic for listening and following. It was one of the best moves Youthworks could have done. Welcome back!!!

    p.s. – keep wearing my OU tshirt with pride!!! Great memories of you in Austin.

  26. Sweet!!!!!!
    I am Grateful that your posting not only shines out how amazing and faithful that God is, but also it sheds great light on the past present and future of YS. My wife and I missed this year’s convention due to budget constraints, but Lord willing we’ll catch you this year!
    God Bless you and YS TONS!!!!

  27. Tony Jacobs

    Hey bro,

    So good to see you back in action! Hope we can grab lunch soon. Great blog.

    Tony Jacobs

  28. Yep. God really showed out this time, didn’t He? I missed you like CRAZY in Atlanta and can not express how glad I am that you are back. YS has gotten me though not just youth ministry, but also my life! I hear everyone say that YWorks is great, and I’m on board with them, however, my confidence is in you and the others. Kinda like “separation anxiety” I guess! 🙂

    A coke bottle plant? How cool is that!
    Oh yeah….Go get Ian back with a big raise.

  29. So to be honest after this last year’s conference in LA I had decided that I was done with YS. Just seemed to be going in a direction that didn’t help me as much as other conferences might. This saddened me for I love YS. But with this news and to hear the heart of YW I think I may have to give YS another chance.

    Thanks for your heart and willingness to listen to His voice Tic!

  30. Brian Ling

    This is a wicked God thing!

  31. Sherri Murray

    Wow! What a story! You truly are Mr. YS So so happy for you and inspired by your faith and trust in Him who takes our lives into the unknown. (and then back again huh?) Crazy. Cheers to you! Sherri and Kevin. :O)

  32. Pingback: Tic and YS : Len Evans

  33. WOW!
    God will getter done…
    Father Potter
    FCA Missions

  34. Lee Sparks

    Tic — I am always slow to pay attention to what’s going on. When we emailed after what seemed to be your untimely departure from YS, I have thought often of you and your willingness to be open to wherever God was going to send your bald head. (Old codgers like me remember the days when you did the long hair and full mustache thing.)

    I am so happy for you and your new(?) job at YS. I hope to see you down the amazing journey that is God’s way.

  35. Mike Butler

    Tic – I became a believer in YS back in 1979 at my first ministry position coming out of seminary. I was introduced to YS by a church member who brought me 3 Whittenburg Doors. I couldn’t put them down. I still have everyone of the Doors that I received over the years. Very few people do Editorials like Yac. Now that YS is back in the ministry game, how about some Whittenburg Doors that were as creative and meaningful as they were 30 years ago!

  36. wow. great to read this blog post. thanks so much for blessing us today with a visit. it was great to drive around in a paint covered minivan and talk about youthworks, YS, and Cass Lake!! best of luck and i’ll hopefully see you in Nashville this fall!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s